National Donor Sabbath: November 11-13, 2011

When thinking about whether you want to be a tissue donor, you may wonder how your religion frames the issue. For more than a decade, the weekend in November two weeks prior to Thanksgiving has held a special significance as the National Donor Sabbath. This weekend’s goal is simple: To help you think through the decision-making process to become a donor.

A time to consider donation

National Donor Sabbath is an opportunity for the leaders within your religious community to speak with you about being an organ and tissue donor. If you are thinking about becoming a donor but have concerns or doubts, be sure to take this chance to speak with your religious leaders. The need is great as is the reward — you have an opportunity to positively impact 50 lives with your decision.

To help you through this process, we’ve listed the views of a number of different faiths:  

AME and AME ZION (African Methodist Episcopal)
Organ and tissue donation is viewed as an act of neighborly love and charity, and members are encouraged to support donation to help others.

Donation is supported though no official policy has been stated. The decision
is left up to the individual.

Buddhists believe organ and tissue donation is a matter that should be left to an individual’s conscience. Reverend Gyomay Masao, president and founder of the Buddhist Temple of Chicago, said, “We honor those people who donate their bodies and organs to the advancement of medical science and to saving lives.” The importance of
letting loved ones know your wishes is stressed.

Organ and tissue donation is considered an act of charity and love, and transplants are morally and ethically acceptable to the Vatican.

The 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recommends and urges “all members of this Church to consider seriously the opportunity to donate organs after death that others may live, and that such decision be clearly stated to family, friends, church and attorney.”

The Greek Orthodox Church supports donation as a way to better human life in the form of
transplantation, or research that will lead to improvements in the prevention of disease.

Based on the principles and the foregoing attributes of a Muslim, the majority of Islamic legal scholars have concluded that transplantation of organs as treatment for otherwise lethal end-stage organ failure is a good thing. Donation by living and deceased donors is not only permitted but encouraged. Muslim scholars of the most prestigious academies are unanimous in declaring that organ donation is an act of merit and in certain circumstances can be an obligation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that the Bible comments directly on organ transplants; hence: decisions made regarding cornea, kidney, and other tissue and organ transplants must be made by the individual. The same is true regarding bone transplants. Jehovah’s Witnesses are often assumed to be opposed to donation because of their belief against blood transfusion. However, this merely means that all blood must be removed from the organs and tissues before being transplanted.

In principal Judaism sanctions and encourages organ donation in order to save lives. Rabbi Elliott N. Dorff wrote that saving a life through organ donation supercedes the rules concerning treatment of a dead body. Transplantation does not desecrate a body or show lack of respect for the dead, and any delay in burial to facilitate organ donation is respectful of the decedent. Organ donation saves lives and honors the deceased. The Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards has stated that organ donations after death represent not only an act of kindness, but are also a “commanded obligation” which saves human lives.

The Lutheran Church passed a resolution in 1984 stating that donation contributes to the wellbeing of humanity and can be “an expression of sacrificial love for a neighbor in need.” They call on “members to consider donating and to make any necessary family legal arrangements, including the use of a signed donor card.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes the decision to donate is an
individual one to be made in conjunction with family, medical personnel, and prayer. The
Church does not oppose donation.

Pentecostals believe the decision to donate should be left to the individual.

Presbyterians encourage and endorse donation. It is an individual’s right to make decisions regarding his or her own body. The resolution states, “the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ and tissue donation, and thereby encourages all Christians to become organ and tissue donors as a part of their ministry.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have an official statement on organ donation;
however, donation and transplantation are strongly encouraged. In fact, there are numerous Seventh-day Adventist transplant hospitals.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has no official position on organ donation. “Such
decisions are a matter of personal conscience,” writes Dr. Steve Lemke, provost of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and fellow of the Research Institute of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

Organ and tissue donation is widely supported by Unitarian Universalists. They view it as an act of love and selfless giving, according to the Unitarian Universalist Association.

“United Church of Christ people, churches, and agencies are extremely and overwhelmingly supportive of organ sharing,” writes Rev. Jay Litner, Director, Washington office of the United Church of Christ Office for Church in Society.

“The United Methodist Church recognizes the life-giving benefits of organ and tissue donation and thereby encourages all Christians to become organ and tissue donors,” reports a church policy statement. In a 2000 resolution the Church also “encourages its congregations to join in the interfaith celebration of National Donor Sabbath … another way that United Methodists can help save lives.”

If you are a religious leader, we urge you to take the time to speak with your congregation about the importance of the gift of life. More information can be found on our website, on our parent site at Community Tissue Services, or at US Dept of Health & Human Services Organ Donor.

The above list of religious faith views was provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services. A complete copy of the Sharing the Gift of Life brochure is available online.